Navigation and Gaming

Katelyn Procci, Random No Comments

Katelyn Procci | March 1, 2012

In late 2010, James Bohnsack and I were tasked with summarizing the literature on navigation skills for an informal lab presentation. We were interested in finding a way to improve the shipboard navigation skills of Navy recruits as a part of our game-based training project with BBN for ONR. We had a several-hour discussion as to how best train navigation skills, both route-based and something a little more dynamic, like the bullseye navigation system. By the end of our discussion, we had come up with the idea for the Rivet City mod.

Lucas Blair, who is now Dr. Blair, made the comment that there were some game maps he could redraw from memory since he had played them so much. Indeed, right now I could probably perfectly recreate 2fort and tell you the best places to build a turret. So that got us thinking — If you can learn how to navigate a real-world space through repeated exposure in an virtual environment, and if a game encourages you to repeatedly navigate that environment to meet your objectives, maybe making something game-like and fun that made Navy recruits use the navigation system over and over would help us solve this difficult training problem.

So, another idea we had was to mod one of Team Fortress 2’s capture-the-point maps to resemble the interior of the ship, complete with an accurate bullseye system. We wanted to spawn the capture point at different bullseye locations. The player would have to use their knowledge of the bullseye system to find and cap the point. We would have several different ship interiors that would change every time you played so that raw route memorization couldn’t occur. Instead, the player would have to rely on understanding and using the bullseye system. Plus, it would be fun, so hopefully that would encourage the player to practice, practice, practice those skills through repeated play. From a time-on-task perspective (or, if you’re into ACT-R, opportunities to use production rules), this should improve training outcomes. We never ended up pursuing it, although I think it still might be worth a shot.

Fast-forward a year and a handful of months. Enter Mapstalgia, a tumblr where people draw game maps from memory. Looks like we weren’t the only ones. I wonder if our idea would’ve worked, afterall…

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